Jeanne Bryner’s “Breach Calf”

Years ago, when I was a student at The Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Writers Workshop, I met Jeanne Bryner.  We became instant friends, bonding over poems written about cows and calves, both of us having lived on or near cattle farms for much of our lives.  Jeanne is an award winning poet, fiction writer and playwright.  She was born in Appalachia and grew up near Warren, Ohio.  She has a beautiful new book (her 7th) called Both Shoes Off, published by Bottom Dog Press.  The book is filled with many wonderful poems, but here is one of my favorites from this new collection:

Breach Calf by Jeanne Bryner

The calf’s hind feet point to barn rafters.
Inside his mama, he dreams a baby brother,

how they sit the moon’s lap for a story.
Climbing down, he does a somersault, lands wrong.

And now, this farmer, his gloved arm pushes him
back and back and back, his mama strains at her plow.

Then, other rough men, special chains, metal wrapped
just below his knees, not wanting a cripple,

a calf who cannot run or play. Mama’s fresh blood,
pain’s awful hands squeeze, no breath for his whistle.

The beautiful boy asleep in clean straw,
but all in the manger are still,

save the bawling mother
washing her son, calling his name to the moon.

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